Exeo buyers can choose from four 2.0-litre turbo engines – 118-, 141- and 168bhp diesels, or a 208bhp petrol. We're yet to drive the weakest diesel or the petrol, but the other two are strong and flexible. Our favourite is the 141bhp diesel because it strikes the best balance between performance and affordability.
The Exeo is based on the previous-generation Audi A4, so it hangs on well through bends and feels stable on the motorway. That said, the standard suspension allows too much bounce over high-speed dips and crests. Sport models have a stiffer set-up that cures this, but it's combined with big, 18-inch wheels, so the ride is unforgiving. The steering isn’t ideal, because it’s heavy around town and light at speed.
The Exeo is pretty good on road noise, but there’s some wind noise to be heard on the motorway. The diesel engines are an issue, though. They’re not as quiet as the class best, and you feel way too much vibration through the steering wheel, pedals and gearstick.
The Exeo is competitively priced, and the 141bhp diesel makes a lot of sense for company car drivers. It averages more than 50mpg and its carbon dioxide emissions are lower than many rivals'. Exeo resale values are no better than reasonable. On all these counts, the VW Jetta does slightly better.
The Exeo's interior shares many parts with the old Audi A4 range, but that's no bad thing, because it was always one of the classiest compact executive cars around. Everything in the Exeo's cabin has a built-to-last feel, and the materials are nicely finished. On the downside, Seat didn't perform very well in our latest Reliability Survey, and Audi finished mid-table.
Every Exeo has stability control and electronic braking aids to help you stay out of trouble. Front, side and curtain airbags, a driver's knee airbag and active anti-whiplash front head restraints are all on hand in case a smash is unavoidable. Deadlocks, an immobiliser and an alarm help guard against theft.
The steering wheel moves for both reach and rake, and the driver's seat is height-adjustable, so most people should be able to make themselves comfortable. Unfortunately, the dashboard layout isn't quite as successful because the centre console is overloaded with buttons that are difficult to tell apart at a glance.
The Exeo has plenty of space up front, but the rear seats are a bit tight on both head- and legroom; a Volkswagen Jetta is more generous on both counts. The boot doesn’t measure up to the biggest in the class, either, but it’s a decent size and well shaped, while split-folding rear backrests are standard.
All models get alloys, climate control, electric windows, cruise control, Bluetooth and an MP3 input socket. SE adds automatic lights and wipers, rear parking sensors and front-seat lumbar adjustment, while Sport includes sports seats, tinted rear windows and bi-xenon headlights. SE and Sport can be upgraded with a Tech pack, which includes sat-nav, leather upholstery and an upgraded stereo.
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This is the most basic model with this engine, but what more do you need? For what it is, it's cheap to buy and run, and a high-quality car for the money.